MERCERSBURG, Pa. — With the new year comes a new beginning for the beleaguered James Buchanan High School swimming pool following the completion of renovations to its locker room.
More than a dozen volunteers rolled up their sleeves to install state-of-the-art plastic lockers on Dec. 27, ending years of pool problems that started with state officials shutting down the deteriorating locker rooms two years ago.
In February 2008, the boys and girls pool locker rooms were condemned by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. When the locker rooms reopened in November 2009, they reopened without lockers.
The water in the pool looked green, the lockers were rusting, the tiles around the pool needed regrouting and there were other issues facing school officials.
Pat Reeder, a Fix JB Sports committee member and parent of former swim team members, called the pool situation “disastrous.”
But last week, as Reeder sat on new bleachers gazing over crystal blue water in the six-lane pool, she said she was moved by the changes to the pool area.
“I can’t even tell you how I feel,” Reeder said. “I am almost in tears right now to see this pool.”
With all athletic venues off the table following the defeat of the $35 million referendum to renovate James Buchanan High School, Fix JB Sports was formed to rally community support and raise funds to save the pool, track, football stadium and tennis courts.
Mark Heckman, owner of Parnell Cabinet Shop at 3669 Parnell Drive in Mercersburg, built the new lockers from King StarBoard, a high-density polyethylene polymer that resists water and grime.
It took Heckman and the volunteers less than eight hours to install 66 lockers in the girls locker room and 60 in the boys locker room, with a total of 12 meeting Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Reeder said the lockers are tall enough for hanging towels and are constructed of plastic so they won’t rust.
“These lockers should last a very long time and still be in good shape,” Reeder said. “The last ones were metal. They were horrible. When we tore them out, they went for scrap.”
With the help of volunteer manpower, Heckman said he was able to cut $5,600 off his original $52,558 price tag.
“I think this is a phenomenal example of teamwork of the community coming together to bring the district into a modern renovation of the pool area and the locker rooms,” said Eric Holtzman, business manager for the Tuscarora School District.
While Fix JB Sports will pay for the new pool lockers, the committee is offering naming opportunities for $400 per locker to offset the cost.
“They can name a locker in honor of their swimmers or after whomever,” Reeder said.
It hasn’t been decided whether the nameplate will be placed on individual lockers or put on a plaque in the pool area.
According to Marianne Quinn, secretary of the Fix JB Sports Capital Campaign, not only have people contributed money to the $1,965,000 capital campaign, but they also have volunteered their time, saving the district money.
“We are extremely proud of what we have accomplished so far,” Quinn said. “We have so many dedicated folks — parents, grandparents, community members, teachers, administration — that have been so committed to this and so persistent, and there is such a breadth of talent.”
Since it began at the end of 2009, the capital campaign has acquired $805,000 in gifts and pledges, Quinn said.
“We are thrilled with the response and support that we’ve gotten from the community so far,” Quinn said. “The teachers say that they can see and feel a tangible morale and positive attitude with the students since this has all taken place with the renovation and Fix JB Sports. It’s a tremendous difference from a few years ago.”
Athletic Director Larry Strawoet isn’t surprised that the community has stepped up to the plate.
“People financially that may not be able to give, they’re donating their time, they’re donating materials — they’re donating whatever they can to help and that very much sums up what a community and what a school district is all about,” Strawoet said.
While a lot of work has been completed, such as the track and upgrades to the pool, Strawoet said there’s more to do.
The stadium concession stand is on Fix JB Sports’ to-do list, along with more stadium parking and more handicapped-accessible parking. In the next couple of years, girls soccer will move to the fall, so Fix JB Sports, along with the district, will need more field/competitive space. Bids to repair the tennis courts also are scheduled for review.